February is known as the month of cupid, love and hearts; it’s no wonder it was proclaimed American Heart Month.
At Arkansas Children’s, we focus on hearts year-round, but Heart Month is a great time to talk about ways parents and caregivers can ensure heart-healthy kids at home.
We asked Dr. Harrison Cobb, a pediatric cardiologist at Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW), questions about children’s heart health during a recent Facebook Live. We’d love you to join in the conversation.
Arkansas Children’s (AC): Thank you for joining us, Dr. Cobb. What type of patient concerns do you typically see in the clinic?
Dr. Cobb (DC): About half of my patients are children born with congenital heart disease and may need surgery in the future or have had surgery and need continued care. The other half of my patients have issues such as palpitations, chest pain, fainting spells or any heart murmurs.
AC: What can parents do to keep their kid’s hearts healthy?
DC: There are things that we see in children that can lead to heart disease in adults, for example, high blood pressure, high stress and exposure to tobacco smoke. The American Academy of Pediatrics puts extra emphasis on adequate exercise and excellent nutrition in children.
AC: How much activity do kids need, and how does it benefit their heart health?
DC: The amount of activity depends on a child's age.
- Toddlers and preschoolers need three hours of activity a day.
- Children 5-17 need 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activity means enough for a light sweat. Plus, try three-to-four days a week of strength and muscle training.
AC: What are some signs and symptoms of poor heart health parents and caregivers can look for in their child?
DC: Fortunately, most children who have heart symptoms don't have heart disease. There are a few symptoms that would likely lead to a cardiology referral.
For example, call your pediatrician if:
- your child has chest pain or fainting, especially while they're being active or running.
- your child complains of palpitations.
- your child experiences dizziness and lightheadedness upon standing.
AC: Can you tell us about some differences between heart conditions in children and adults?
DC: When we talk about heart disease in adults, we often mean clogged arteries or hypertension from lifestyle choices, causing chest pain and even heart attacks. Children have not lived long enough to develop these problems and are instead born with or have illnesses that cause heart disease.
AC: We appreciate your time and expertise, especially regarding children's heart health. Is there anything else that you would like to share for Heart Month?
DC: I encourage everyone to exercise and eat healthy as much as possible. I know it can be a struggle, but it is worth it. We live in such a beautiful state, with so many opportunities to get outside to enjoy it. We're always here to help at Arkansas Children's Northwest Cardiology.